Alaska governor wants to push back against recent federal resource development decisions

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.(KTVF)
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 12:59 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:52 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a press conference on Thursday, saying his administration is preparing to push back harder against recent federal decisions impacting resource development in Alaska.

The governor wants the Alaska Legislature to appropriate more money during its next regular session in January for the Statehood Defense Initiative. That initiative is set to receive $4 million over the current fiscal year to defend Alaska resource projects in court.

Dunleavy, who is running for a second term in 2022, said more money is needed because he expects there will be more court challenges.

President Joe Biden’s administration restarted a legal effort on Thursday that could see further restrictions implemented on the proposed Pebble Mine. Advocates of that say it could help protect critical parts of the Bristol Bay watershed and the world’s most productive sockeye salmon fishery.

The mine’s developer is appealing a decision made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while President Donald Trump was in office which denies a key authorization for development. Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for Pebble Limited Partnership, said the company is reviewing this recent decision and its impacts.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced that it is preparing to reevaluate how oil and gas leases were approved on the North Slope under the Trump administration.

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That comes after a federal judge struck down permits last month approved for the Willow Project which had been supported by the Biden administration in court. At its peak, that project had been expected to produce 160,000 barrels of oil per day.

In July, the Biden administration also ended large-scale logging in the Tongass National Forest.

“It’s bad for Alaska, and quite frankly, it’s bad for the entire world,” Dunleavy said about the recent federal decisions.

He argued that Alaska is a world leader in responsible resource development. Prohibiting development in the U.S. of oil and rare earth minerals only ensures that occurs in countries with weaker environmental standards, Dunleavy added.

The governor was joined by representatives from the Alaska resource development sector who are concerned what recent federal decisions would mean for jobs.

“We don’t think the Biden administration wants Alaska to have a healthy economy,” argued Deantha Crockett of the Alaska Miners Association.

Environmental groups have applauded recent decisions made by the Biden administration, saying they help combat climate change and protect critical habitats in Alaska.

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